As an avid gym-goer, I’m constantly amazed and driven by the body’s ability to strengthen over time with habitual exercise. But, like most, I also experience the dreaded hindrance that discourages us all at some point. No, I’m not referring to happy hour, although that is a good reason to skip the gym. I’m talking about “the wall”. The proverbial peak. The “I can’t possibly lift any more weights” phenomenon. The limit.
And what can you do at the point of your body’s finite threshold? You work out even more, upping the gym time from an hour to 90 minutes. You incorporate more exercises. 3 sets? Not enough, do 4, or maybe 5. Better yet, try super-sets. But at the end of the day, you will simply come to the realization that you will never bench press 1075 lbs a la World Powerlifting champ Ryan Kennelly (FYI that’s him to the right).
That’s alright though, I’m a financial advisor, not a world class body builder, so I don’t need to look like I can bench half a ton. Plus, I need the flexibility to reach my calculator.
So, for better or for worse, I reached the wall, the inevitable point of diminishing results. Without having unlimited time to exert maximum effort for minimal benefit, the only other prudent strategy I can think of is diversify the work out. Incorporate some other exercises or body parts. Ok, sounds good. I’m a little weak on legs, let’s include some squats. My shoulders are kind of under-developed relative to other areas, so let’s add in some military presses.
Alright, doing good. It’s been 6 weeks now. I’m feeling like I’m making strides. I’m adding in some extra weight even. This is working, I’m making progress, right?
Wrong. I woke up the next day and couldn’t lift my right arm. It was painful to attempt to take off my shirt. I had to use my left arm to eat, drive and open doors. Ok, no problem, minor setback.
How long can this last?
1 week and I’ll be back in the gym, no sweat.
Ok, make that 2 weeks. Nope, not ready yet, still experiencing lots of pain and soreness in the shoulder area.
One more week and I’ll be good to go.
Not quite, make that 4 weeks.
Some more ice, heat, and rest, by week 5 I’ll be ready to hit the weights again. Still hurts.
Ok, week 6 for sure.
I’ve never been out more than 6 weeks, so guarantee by week 7, I’ll be back working out and doing my thing.
16 weeks later, I found myself in a physical therapy program. Instead of lifting weights, a physical therapist is telling me about the glenohumeral joint. Instead of repping 255 lbs on the bench press, I’m lifting my right arm up 7 inches with no weight. Instead of curling 100 lbs, I’m icing my acromioclavicular joint. Instead of jamming to 50 cent on my ipod and generating adrenaline for 90 minutes, I’m laying on a bed with e-stem pumping through my scapula. I could have been content with “the wall”, knowing I had reached my peak, but no, I had to diversify! Take it from me – keep the diversifying for your investment portfolio, but in the gym, stick to what works for you.
UPDATE: So $1,000 and 22 weeks later, I still can’t do a pushup without pain. And I’m still going to physical therapy. But, I did learn a valuable lesson of which I’d like to share with anyone and everyone. It turns out a shoulder injury I experienced is common. As I read from Dr. Frank Jobe’s.interview with CBS Money Watch, (Dr. Jobe is a well known trainer for athletes and performed ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction AKA Tommy John surgery on the first professional athlete, Tommy John, in 1974 ), the main culprit to shoulder injury is…as you guessed it, military press! For some reason, our shoulders aren’t meant to carry heavy weight like our chest and legs can. Go figure! Ok, so the lesson of the day is avoid the military press exercise from your routine. You’ll be better off spending that $1,000 on happy hour!